Sunday, 13 July 2014

13 Jul 14 - Where have I been?...Working mostly!

Well, this new job is taking up a lot of my time and coupled with the travelling involved I find myself with very little time to ride or update the blog at the moment.  However, I will be keeping this site going so be sure to check back for Matchless Man updates. 
Rock riding with NT410

Rd 3 of the ACU Sammy Miller national championship, The Sam Cooper/Union Jack trial, went OK overall.  However, due to an organiser’s mistake, one section in Saintbury Wood was overly tricky but it was the same for everybody.  I over gassed the bike up a steep bank with a log at the top and the small landing area, which required an immediate left-hand turn down an equally steep bank, was covered in the eponymous garlic and I lost the front wheel for a maximum.  This cost me third place and some good points plus the coveted Sam Cooper Trophy.  On the up side it was a very well attended round with some great Cotswold sections and on the whole, the organisers got it spot on however, there was at least one observer who gave his mate another go instead of the maximum he incurred (no baulk was incurred).  In my opinion, this is not the way to conduct an ACU National trial and when you’re competing against lightweight bikes and Experts on the Clubman route it makes me wonder why I’m spending a hell of a lot of money trying to compete against the odds.  Anyway, thanks to everyone at the Stratford upon Avon club for putting on such a good event. 

I then changed jobs so I didn’t ride for three weeks so decided to go for some practice with my old friend Heath Brindley (JTG 300) at the Zona 1 ground in Nettleton.  When I got there, Heath had already mastered a series of big logs arranged in a hillside and was pretty confident I could get the Matchless up them too.  Anyway, it wasn’t long before Heath had the camera out but we decided to go at some rocks vice the logs as you can see in these pictures kindly provided by Heath.  I even had a go on the JTG 300 which is an amazing piece of kit.  The throttle response was razor sharp which, coupled with a generally light bike, made for some eye-opening manoeuvres and I found myself besting some even bigger rocks with ease although the log box still proved problematic!

Anyway, the next day I decided to contest day 2 of the North Berkshire MCC trial at my favourite postage stamp of land in Besselsleigh.  I normally only ride here with the VMCC on Boxing Day however, this predominantly Monoshock the club found some very interesting sections that I hadn’t seen before.  This made for a challenging but very enjoyable day and I was genuinely pleased with my performance.  Since changing the clutch cable I have had a few problems when the bike gets hot and I really had to nurse the bike around this course.  The terrain was a mixture of loose sand, mud, rocks and tight turns with a few rock slabs for added excitement.  I was glad Heath had me practicing heard the day before.  My rides in Sub 1 were the pick of the day; a really difficult section on a big bike that demanded mid-section gear changes but I rode the steep sandy banks and tight, off-camber turns well and was pleased with my efforts. Despite taking the Pre-65 win (and 20 championship points) I was second overall on the Sportsman route which was a great achievement considering the competition were all Monoshock mounted.  Check out the results and see what else is happening at this brilliant club at the North Berks MCC site HERE.

Giving NT410 a rest; Heath is a hard task-master!!
(photo courtesy of Heath Brindley)
Next up was Rd 4 of the ACU Sammy Miller national championship at Pateley Bridge in Yorkshire.  As I alluded to earlier I was having some problems with the clutch which made riding quite a challenge.  It was a hot day which didn’t help my cause nevertheless, I was going quite well.  The Cockhill Mines group were a lot trickier this year but a lot more enjoyable.  Despite a “committee” maximum, where the assembled riders & spectators told the observer what I scored, in the first section I rallied to clean the remainder in style.  However, NT410 started to sound quite rough and by the time we got to Rayner’s Field the bike was popping and banging.  Slow running was OK but when I demanded throttle NT410 was uncharacteristically out of sorts.  Gouthwaite reservoir saw me take a couple of maximums as I couldn’t get the power on due to the carburetion, or off due to the clutch.  I incurred a further two maximums at before the lunch stop and with my competition over I decided to retire the bike at the lunch stop in Lofthouse where Penny could pick me up in the van rather than risk breaking down on the Moors where it’s miles from the nearest metalled road.  I was bitterly disappointed but it was the right choice to retire.  Suffice to say, my 2014 National campaign is now over but I may turn out on MH410 to hopefully, take a few points off the leaders later in the year.  Once again, there were some observers letting their mates have another go vice incurring a maximum which, coupled with the “marking by committee” left an unsavoury note on the whole proceedings.  The ACU and organisers must get a grip of this unwarranted nepotism if the Sammy Miller series is to have any relevance or meaning.  Nevertheless, Nick Pullen and the Ilkley & District MCC did a fantastic job once again and I extend my thanks to all at the club for putting on a very well organised and competitive trial.


Following Pateley Bridge I conducted some analysis of NT410’s problems and have taken it off the road for a while to rectify and hopefully improve the bike.  I’ve already changed and re-jetted the carburettor and the Maxton rear end is being refurbished and re-sprung.  More upgrades are planned and I hope to keep you informed as the project progresses.  Anyway, I won’t be riding NT410 until I can get the upgrades done so it’s either the ex-Alan Saunders G3LC long-stroke 350 (AS 350), the Maurice Hocking 410 (MH410) or back to “El Diablo”, the ex-Tony Sullivan long-stroke G80C for the time being.  Hopefully, my workload will ease off and I can actually get back out on a bike!
All photographs are courtesy of Heath Brindley.

"El Diablo", AS500 & I in action at Nettleton
in December 2012

Monday, 26 May 2014

11 MAY 14 Some practice time & The Dalesman Trial

I’m in the middle of changing jobs at the moment so a lack of time has precluded me updating the blog however, I’ve been out competing on the bike and practice aside, I've ridden a couple of great trials this month.  The physio sessions continue and I’m getting a bit more strength in the left leg and ankle but there’s a way to go yet.  Fortunately, I have access to a physiotherapist and there’s a gym at my new job location so I can carry on working towards full recovery with the aim of improving my riding.
Getting some rock practice at Nettleton on NT410
Being a member of Zona1 MCC I decided to purchase a practice ticket along with my ACU licence renewal but apart from a lesson from Steve Saunders & a test ride of Andy Barefield’s outstanding Triumph Tiger Cub, I’ve not used the Practice ticket at all.  I had a couple of weeks spare before The Dalesman so Penny and I headed to Nettleton Quarry.  As predicted, I was the only Classic bike there but the mono lads and lasses were interested in the bike and were quite amused by my riding of the tyres and logs.  I was quite regimented in my practice and once I cleaned a section I upped the ante immediately until I went clean again.  I anticipated that Derbyshire would be quite rocky so, having backed the Maxtons down, I had a go at some big rocks and steps.  Feeling drained and with my left leg aching but with some confidence returning I headed off home to clean NT410.

More rock practice at Nettleton

The following week the weather turned wet and as we headed North in treacherous driving conditions I rued my decision not to put a new set of IRC tyres on NT410.  Penny and I stayed at a wonderful guest house not far from the trial and made our way up to the start location, The Miner’s Standard, for dinner and a few pints of Marstons where we were astonished to see the Brough Owners Club having their annual dinner.  With a plethora of knowledgeable motorcyclists to talk to it was a great evening.  We arrived early whereupon I signed on and picked up a route card.  Master Chef had made the long journey up from Stroud that morning and it was nice to see a familiar face.  A few of the Sammy Miller regulars turned up including Speedway Star Eric Boocock (Cub) accompanied by Eddie Bull (Cub) and the evergreen Mick Ash (James) and Mark Spencer (Francis Barnett) who sported a pair of beautiful two strokes. 

Ex-AMC works rider Mick Andrews got us away

Ex-AMC works rider, "Magical" Mick Andrews got us away bang on time and we headed for the village of Ible for three sections in a cattle field.  I must say that I was rather amused as I watched the first rider through go clean as if it was a main road however; subsequent riders soon came to grief on the steep, greasy bank.  Master Chef selected second gear, opened the throttle and went nowhere for a maximum; similarly, I selected third, gently opened the throttle and once I was moving went for some power.  It didn’t work and I ground to a halt some ten feet into the section for a maximum.  Then the hard work came as I tried to get the massive Matchless up the steep, greasy, cow-rutted bank.  I must confess to being completely knackered by the time I got to the top and was pleased to see that Subs 2 and 3 were downhill in a stream.  I was annoyed to have a steadying dab in Sub 2 but cleaned Sub 3 and headed out onto the road (again, having to give NT410 a handful in third to actually reach the road!).


After a long road ride we came to Griffewalk Farm for four Subs laid out boulder strewn field.  Despite a heavy shower they rode well but I got out of position in Sub 6 and had to take a steadying and very disappointing dab.  The next group at Carsington Pastures were similar only the boulders were rocky outcrops.  These were a great group of sections as the mixture of loose earth, wet grass and unpredictable wet lichen covered rocks forced some concentration.  Nevertheless, I misjudged a gap in the rocks and my foot got knocked off the pegs for another slack dab.  A long ride to Longcliffe Top ensued and the first section here was a real frightener and I had to take a couple of dabs right at the end as the tightening gulley and sharp right hand turn combined to make the going tricky.  The next section looked similarly formidable but rode really well as I found a lot of grip up a really steep bank.  Buoyed, I was doing well in the meandering Sub 14 and rode the rock step perfectly however, I got off line and had to take a maximum as I fell off the back of NT410 and was lucky that my head landed between to granite boulders!  A little shaken, I was very hesitant in Sub 15 which had a totally unnecessary and quite dangerous exit over a fallen down wall and there was much grumbling from the entry.  Nevertheless, I took my time, held on and came away with a single dab.

Speedway Star Eric Boocock and the legend, Mick Andrews

Back out onto the road I dumped NT410 into a left hand corner and the back end stepped out on me and it was quite clear I had a puncture.  As the road was very busy I headed back to Longcliffe Top and took stock in the safety of the field.  After some analysis, it became clear that I had a sticky valve so once I blasted some CO2 in there and settled the valve down I headed off for three tricky sections at Nut Wood where the tricky entry of the first Sub caused me to lose another slack dab.  Fatigue was setting in and by the time I got to the eponymous Black Rocks I was flagging.  The first sub caught me out for a slack pair as did the last but it was really tight for a big bike and I resolved to improve my practice regime.

The next group at Carson’s Farm were plotted in what can best be described as “Cotswold slime interspersed with granite”.  The banks were devoid of traction and even walking the tight, twisty sections was a challenge.  I saw some cracking accidents in here, most notably Mick Ash and Mark Spencer who both had frightening offs in Sub 22; fortunately, both riders were unhurt.  Finally, we arrived at Sacheveral Farm for more grass banks interspersed with rocks.  The first section here, Sub 26, featured a really tricky exit and I was genuinely pleased to have cleaned it and the rest of the group.

Tyre pratice on a bank

Finally, we headed for the short ride back to the Miner’s Standard and I was glad it was over.  The convivial atmosphere of the previous night coupled with the Marston’s Pedigree along with the energy sapping first Sub, all combined and I was genuinely tired.  In the end, the decision not to put new tyres on NT410 cost me dear and despite winning the Clubman Pre-Unit Class on 34 marks lost I could have won this trial.  I’m glad I went as this was critical intelligence for next year where hopefully, The Dalesman Trial will be incorporated into the Sammy Miller National championship and a fitting addition it will be too. 

Thanks to Henry Gaunt, the observers and everyone at the Dales Classic Club for an excellent day’s trialling and I look forward to returning for next year’s event where hopefully, with a new tyre, I can ride a bit better!  Click the link to visit the Club's site and see pictures and reports from The Dalesman Trial

Airborne again!!

Monday, 12 May 2014

20 APR SWCTA Exmoor 2 day Classic Trial - Day Two at Lynton

The overnight accommodation was excellent and fortunately, not too far away from the start at Shallowford Farm so Penny & I had a leisurely breakfast before heading off at a very reasonable 0915.  The weather had turned distinctly wintry and it was chilly on the exposed Exmoor hills.  Fortunately, there was no signing on as we kept the same numbers from Day one however, on Day two we got away in reverse order.  The ground consisted of a mile or so of stream in a steep sided valley and the subs were plotted using the natural terrain.  It was clear this was going to be a technical day.

Did somebody say rocks?

We headed to Sub 4 and the rumours proved to be correct.  There were rocks; thousands of them; all covered in the world’s slipperiest algae and nobody seemed overly keen trail blaze.  Eventually, Neil Osman (Royal Enfield) powered his way through for a clean and the rest of the entry quickly followed.  I mounted up and it didn’t ride as bad as it looked; you had to take care, but I encountered no problems and was pleased with a clean sheet.  Mike Holloway’s Sub 5 was a long stream section with lots of loose, algae-covered rocks and a couple of steps but I took my time and came away without troubling Mike’s pencil. Sub 6 continued the theme but was even more treacherous with the addition of “Welsh Teeth” (those slate-type rocks that are a particular feature of Welsh streams) and a high rock step.  Sub 7 was a real cracker; a tight twisty start led to a stream crossing before a huge climb.  I saw many riders come to grief here so I selected second gear, clutched my way through the tight stuff and gunned it up the bank for a clean each time.  At one stage I was airborne; taking off as I came off the second step on the bank. 
Entering Sub 6
Subs 8 – 10 saw us back in the stream; unfortunately, I couldn’t decide on a line for sub 9 and two dabs ensued however, I elected to fire NT410 up a near vertical climb on subsequent laps for a satisfying pair of cleans.  Sub 11 was my nemesis; I just couldn’t master the slippery entry into the stream and the subsequent tight turn back out for the long climb.  I eventually got it right on the last lap but had to take a two and a three here.  Similarly, Sub 12 was quite a tester for all.  Plotted up a steep grassy bank and making use of the embedded granite boulders strewn around the venue it was quite tight so trying to gauge the speed was crucial.  My initial clean was followed by a three before a very satisfying clean on the last lap when the rain that was threatening all day made the going distinctly hazardous.  We made our way back to the start for Subs 1-3 which were back in the stream.  Pete Meeson’s Sub 2 looked horrendous but rode well however, I did have to take a disappointing dab on my second visit and a similarly gutting dab on lap one of Sub 3 but I guess it did stop me having a maximum.

Firing the Matchy out of the stream in Sub 4

By the last lap the rain was getting heavier and I was glad to have finished strongly with a clean sheet.  In hindsight I should’ve done better and I was certainly capable of cleaning Day 2 however, a combination of fatigue and lack of familiarity with the ground cost me the Class A Clubman win and I came home in second place. 

Overall, it was an excellent couple of days and this trial is certainly in my all-time top five.  SWCTA laid on a great sporting trial; with so many familiar faces and the friendly atmosphere it was like a local trial and I would certainly recommend this trial to anyone with a classic bike.  If I had one (very slight) criticism it would be the amount of twinshock machines in the entry which only serve to make the expert route practically impossible for all but the best heavyweight Pre-Unit riders on very trick machinery.  I understand the economics so do not want to labour the point and I very much look forward to being lucky enough to gain an entry for next year’s event.

Taking it steay over the rocks

A very big Thank You to Bill Hartnell, the course plotters and observers who made this trial possible and not forgetting the landowners, Gilbert Cummins and Joe Leaworthy for their staunch and kind support over many years.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

19-20 APR SWCTA Exmoor 2 day Classic Trial - Day One at Cove

I’ve heard a lot about this trial over the years and all of the feedback was good.  Indeed, I had intended to ride the 2013 event but such is its popularity that I missed the entry limit and had to revert to my normal Easter outing at Red Marley with the factory.  Fortunately this year, event organiser Bill Hartnell was kind enough to let me know when the regulations were available and despite getting them in bang on time I was still number eighty six!  NT410 had been playing up a bit of late and thankfully Dave managed to sort out the valve and timing problems and after much hard work, got the blasted chain tensioner to fit without fouling the chain. 
Me, Mark Lucas (59) & Steve Leyshon (91) at the start

With the factory turning out at Red Marley I was on my own for this one.  Penny and I were on the road early with NT410 in the back and despite the Bank Holiday traffic, we were in Thatcher’s Cider factory shop by 0900 where we picked up twenty litres of Cheddar Valley and a six pack of the limited edition 458 cider.  Back on the M5 we made it to Marwoods Farm in Cove near Tiverton well before the 1200 start where it was immediately obvious that this was a very popular trial.  As this was my first time, it was heartening to see so many familiar faces; indeed, there were so many BMCA riders present it could’ve qualified as one of their championship rounds!  There were also familiar faces from the North of England and it was no surprise to see road racing and trials legend Mick Grant (BSA Bantam) along with Speedway superstar Eric Boocock (Triumph Cub) at the meeting as well as some West Country stars like Scott and Colin Dommett.  It was great to see Gary Kinsman back out on his beautiful Ariel once again and well on the road to recovery; well done Gary!
Exiting the stream for the mudbank
of Sub 5

Signing on was a piece of cake and I picked up my First Class award from the Dartmoor 2 day classic back in September 2013 which consisted of a intricately engraved crystal glass.  At the pre-ride briefing we were instructed that the day would consist of three laps of twelve sections and we were set off in number order by Bill Hartnell in groups of three riders at one minute intervals.  Riding the Clubman route I was obliged to start at Sub 4 which eased you in with a steep climb up a loose and root-laden bank with a couple of steps in for good measure.  Fortunately, there was plenty of grip to be had and my worn rear tyre coped admirably.  Pete Meeson’s Sub 5 began as a rock stream however, we turned out of it and exited through a mud flat before a couple of turns up and over a bank at the base of the steep wooded slope.  I selected second gear but the mud rode surprisingly well and I was able to get the big Matchless through with a quick blip of the throttle. 

By far the most challenging section was Clive Causer’s Sub 6 which was a deep, tight and uphill ravine out of the stream.  Barely wide enough for a BSA Bantam it was a really technical section and when you exited the ravine there was a steep, greasy bank to negotiate.  This was really tricky and I took a lot of time to watch a few go through which paid off and I was pleased with my pair of dabs and a clean on the last lap.  The rock gully of Sub 7 caused little trouble but a couple of tight turns in the rock strewn gulley of Sub 8 caught a few of the unwary out.  Mike Holloway’s Sub 9 was entitled Cold Slab and if you got it wrong that’s exactly what you were greeted with!  The big rock steps coupled with some rather unforgiving algae were cruel to those that lost concentration and I was pleased to have cleaned this on each visit.   
The Cold Slab section
Dave Fisher’s Sub 10 proved to be quite tricky.  A steep drop into the stream and an immediate left turn over the shale in the stream bed led to a steep climb topped with an old log.  Turning back into the stream again we were faced with two big steps before a greasy exit up a bank to the track.  Again, I took my time to work out the entry and was pleased to have got it right however, on my first time through, inexplicably, NT410 got caught on the second rock step and I was thrown over the handlebars for a maximum.  This somewhat ruined my day’s score and hurt like hell but I didn’t repeat the incident on subsequent visits.

The rock gully of Sub 11 led to a massive step and tight ravine which looked impossible however, everyone seemed to fly up there and I was no different.  I got my weight to the rear, rode the preceding burm and blipped NT410 up the step diving forward to transfer my weight to the front of the bike for the next tight turn and out of the root laden exit.  Sub 12 was a traditional mud and root combination that demanded respect and I was genuinely pleased to have come through this one unscathed.  After a long ride I got to Sub 1 which was a long, deep gully filled with rocks and mud which, surprisingly, rode really well but I guess that was due to my care and attention rather than being an easy section.  Sub 2 was another eye-opener; a tricky entry over greasy roots led to a deep mud plateau and a log hazard to get over.  Fortunately, NT410 handled this one really well but it was no picnic.  Similarly, Sub 3, a long steep gulley with big, loose rocks in it was quite fearsome but I selected second gear, maintained good speed and cleaned it on all three visits.

Concentrating hard in Sub 11

This was a friendly and really well thought out trial on some cracking ground.  Despite 48% of the entry being Twinshock machines, the Clubman route was spot on for a big Pre-Unit bike and much credit must be given to the course plotters who resisted the urge to focus solely on the Twinshock bikes and tighten things up. 

Thanks to all the observers who marked our cards and to the land owner Gilbert Cummings for his kind generosity in allowing the club to use this wonderful piece of ground and for his continued support for this great event.

Back into the water in Sub 7

Overall, Day One was tough but very enjoyable.  My inexplicable maximum in Sub 10 cost me dear and I finished 2= on seven marks lost when two should’ve been par.  Nevertheless, as we headed off for our overnight accommodation near Lynton I was reasonably pleased with my efforts at my first Exmoor Classic trial however; slightly daunted by tales of the big rocks of Day two I opted for an early night!!
Next up: Day Two at Shallowford Farm, Barbrook.

Mid point log in Sub 10


Sunday, 13 April 2014

6 Apr 14 Prescott Bike Festival 2014

Having participated in the inaugural event and enjoyed it so much, the Prescott Bike festival Run-the-Hill event is a Matchless Man annual outing.  As you can imagine, it sells out very quickly so I entered this event in early January.  Unfortunately, the National trials calendar wasn’t firmed up by then and as a result there was a clash with Round 1 of the ACU Sammy Miller national championship, The Cotswold Cups trial at Bisley.  Still, the rules state you drop a round in the final reckoning and as Mossy is a bit of a bandit (and has ripped me off before for national championship points before) I was quite confident I wouldn’t be missing out on the trials front.

Tucking in after leaving the line on MH410
Last year I vowed to buy a road racing bike for this event but with Manx Nortons, AJS 7Rs and Matchless G50s fetching ridiculous money I was always going to find it a tall order.  However, I was lucky to find and purchase a Honda RC162 “Mike Hailwood” replica early in the year and I planned to run this, as well as MH410, up the hill.  However, the bad weather did not allow any practice time on the Honda and with a wet track sporting some mud on it I decided discretion was the better part of valour.

My Honda RC162 replica which I didn't run this year
With a very shiny and fully checked MH410 I left home around 0800 for the short trip to Gotherington and parked MH410 against the third cherry tree in the paddock (as I don’t have a stand).  Once again, the Marshall’s were spot-on and the general organisation was of a very high calibre.  After signing-on with two of the most enthusiastic and wonderful staff in the information hut, I got my safety brief and did a quick walk of the hill.  Besides being damp there was some grass clippings and mud on the surface which took some the less experienced riders by surprise and there was lots of wheel-spinning off the line!!

Catching the apex in the Hairpin
Disappointingly, there was no brolly girl this year but a good crowd made the event feel special.  I was quite taken by surprise when I rounded the bottom loop and saw so many people watching from the banks before the tricky Ettores bend.  My first run was as fast as I dared to go but as the track dried out I gave MH410 a handful for the last run of the morning and bettered my time.  During the break I had a wander around the top paddocks taking in the sights of rare motorcycling machinery such as a reverse-head Manx Norton, a plethora of RC161 / RC162s and some rare racing 50cc bikes.  The best bike was undoubtedly the ex-Frankie Chilli MotoGP Ducati.  If you think the Honda on open megaphones sounds good, you need to hear that! It literally blows you away!

Ready for the second half of the hill
The afternoon runs were blighted by a little rain but I still got a good turn of speed and got the knee out on knobbly tyres! (which got the adrenaline flowing).  Thanks to Dom Jackson and Mandy Miles for the photos used here.  Photos of the event are available from the event website HERE 

Thanks to all the staff and Marshalls at Prescott for putting on another spectacular and very well organised event.  Personally, I’m looking forward to next year where hopefully, I can run the Honda as well as MH410.

Building some speed off the line

13 Apr 14, The March Update!

Firstly, apologies for the complete lack of posts on here over the last month or so, but it has been rather hectic recently and I haven’t had time to get to the computer.  I’m happy to report that I have been getting out and riding so here’s a quick round-up of what I’ve been getting up to on my Matchless during March 2014.
Action from Binegar (see below)
First up was Golden Valley Classic’s March Hare Trial.  This brilliant local trial which takes in around 50 miles of the South Gloucestershire countryside heralds the start of the year’s long distance trials and is the perfect opportunity to gauge how you’ll go during the “Millers”.  Unfortunately, weeks of high winds and heavy rain took their toll on the ground however, the route planners were out regularly, clearing fallen trees and branches from the many tracks and woods used during the trial.  It was obvious that the club had put in a lot of hard work in some pretty adverse weather and I was pleased to get some hard standing parking this year in the Hunter’s Hall car park.  Over 150 riders contested the route and despite a strong showing from British bikes we were outnumbered by the twinshocks, “Pamps” and Enduro idiots (who seem incapable of behaving rationally and with courtesy. Personally, I ban them form the event but the club have to make money on the trial). 

NT410 at Golden Valley Classic MCC's March Hare Trial

The first group of sections at Tinkley Lane were pretty tricky and set the tone for the day.  We wended our way on through Crawly, Coaley and Ashmead mostly off road and into the long and demanding trails of Stinchcombe. The three rocky sections at Breakheart Quarry were a welcome break from the mud and were followed by a mouth-watering spread of cakes kindly provided by the ladies of the club.  In addition this year, the ladies put on hot tomato soup; this former trials staple was perfect for alleviating the chills and very much appreciated.  We rode on to Pitt Court, the demanding Westridge Woods and from Axe Lane into Ashen Plain and on to the group through Uley woods. A short respite on the road led into the final loop down through Ozleworth, Combe and final sections in Scrubbits.

Finding some grip on NT410 in Binegar Quarry

I was one of the last riders back and glad to see the van.  It was a tough day in the saddle and I was quite tired truth be told.  This very slippery trial called for the higher gears and I can’t think of another trial where I’ve used third so often!  I never go really well at this trial but this year the poor conditions coupled with some aggressive riding suited me better and I came out with my best result of third place (7 ML) behind some venerable company.  The Factory had mixed results with Pete Collins (Ariel - 24 ML) coming out ahead of Ken Wallington (Ariel - 34 ML) and Dave Arkell (Ariel - 49 ML).  The Teflon Don was absent on recuperation following his recent operation.  All things considered it was another superb trial and I would like to thank all the Golden Valley Classic crew for their sterling efforts in getting this trial put on.  Thanks also to the ladies for the Tomato soup and the hardy observers without whom, we’d be stuffed.  Full results can be found HERE

Sporting the Trial Classic shirt at Binegar

My next trial was on 9th March with Bath Classic MCC who, due to the weather, elected to use Binegar Quarry near Gurney Slade.  With Jon Cull having given up Clerk-of-the-Course duties it was difficult to work out which route to ride however, with Heath Brindley out on Andy Barefield’s beautiful Cub I elected to ride the Expert route with him using NT410.  The new Clerk must be a Twin shock rider as it was quite tight in places but overall it was a pretty fair course.  Only three big bikes contested the Expert route and it was the magnificent Barry Barthorpe (Ariel - Clean) who came out on top; his clean ride putting the evergreen Bob Hill (Ariel – 31 ML) and myself (41 ML) to shame.  Heath’s modern riding style saw him have a few problems with the Cub however, he acquitted himself well and but for a brace of “fives” where he stalled the Cub he could’ve been third.  Somerset’s John Pym (Triumph) topped the Pre-Unit class on the B route, with Golden Valley’s Steve O’Connor coming second on the unwieldy Norton 500T.  Full results can be seen HERE

Holy Cow! it's a long way down from here!

Lastly, I headed over to Brimpsfield with the rest of the Factory on the 30th March to ride in Stroud Valley MCC’s Minchinhampton Cup Trial.  Despite being billed as a Novice trial this predominantly monoshock club put on a very testing B route and all the factory riders decided this was the best option.  The Brimpsfield venue was in tip-top condition and featured good use of the steep root-laden banks, deep mud and rocky streams.  I went reasonably well and should’ve cleaned the trial but for some really slack and needless dabs.  Nevertheless, I was the first “big” bike home on the B route which was no mean feat.  Congratulations to Pre-65 rider Ray Collins (BSA 175) who cleaned the B route.  The hardest section was Sub 10 where a really tight and technical entry led to a steep, clay bank with a massive rut half way up it.  I elected to use second gear and was elated to come away with a single dab from my three visits.  Dave Arkell, who was on his beautiful Seeley Honda, used hardly any power and seemed to float up the bank as if it had been tarmac!  Results for the factory (featuring some riders on “different” bikes) are:-

Jai Jacka             Matchless 410              4
Pete Collins         Beta 200                     11
Dave Arkell         Seeley Honda 200        16
Nige Townsend    Matchless 410              18
Ken Wallington    Ariel HT500                  39

Heath on the Cub, Me (NT410), Lisa & Andy (Camera) at
the start of Bath Classic MCC's club trial

Saturday, 1 March 2014

01 Mar 14, Time to get riding!

Well, it’s been nearly four weeks since I threw my leg over a bike mainly due to a combination of the poor weather with many trials cancelled and partly because I wanted to give my left leg time to heal and gain some strength.  I must say it is feeling much better and I am able to put my full weight on the leg with the consequence that I can walk around much better now (which is a great relief as I hated limping!).  Some soft tissue damage remains and I am undergoing Physio to try and address this so I can get back to full fitness.  Running is most definitely still out of the question and any kind of “shock” such as jumping out of the back of the van, still gets my attention.  Still, things are going in the right direction.
I don't remember it being this deep!

March not only heralds the start of spring but also the first of many long distance road trials and chief amongst them is Golden Valley Classic’s, The March Hare Trial.  Despite never having gained a respectable finish in this event it is a “must do” trial and takes in some spectacular sections over its sixty mile loop of Southern Gloucestershire.  Mindful that I was in need of some solid practice I decided to take some leave and head on up to Zona1 MCC’s practice ground at Birdlip Quarry with NT410.  I was joined by my old pal Heath Brindley and Andy Barefield who had brought his stunning new Triumph Tiger Cub out for some testing.  I haven’t ridden with Heath for a while but he always brings out the best in my riding and it wasn’t long before I was following him into some challenging “sections” comprised of big logs, steep climbs and big, slippery rocks.  I must say, it was great to feel challenged and test myself against such a good rider however, I did have a couple of “offs” both of which caused me to land on my left leg and I was in a great deal of pain.  However, they’re only cuts and bruises and I didn’t break the leg again, thank goodness!
The Cub takes big slabs in its stride

Andy is a very generous gentleman and I was afforded the great privilege of being able to test ride his new creation whilst also watching Heath tackling the sections on NT410 (which, for a non-Pre-65 rider, he handled with aplomb!).  Andy’s Cub was a real buzz.  Light, snappy and with perfect steering & suspension it simply ate up all I could throw at it.  Big logs, climbs, jumps and rocks were suddenly much more rideable and after a suggestion from Heath, I selected first gear and slowed the pace down over the rocks.  It was amazing; the little Cub soaked up the undulations and floated through the sections.  I even faced my “demon section” (where I broke my leg) and rode it for a clean on each occasion.  I was very impressed with Andy’s Tiger Cub and I must say it took me a long while to get used to NT410 again at the end of the day.  I think I may have to look into the Triumph Tiger Cub again; it could be just what’s needed for the 2014 ACU Sammy Miller national championship.  One thing’s for certain; it’d be a better move than going with a rigid.  Watch this space!!

No problem for this very well set up
Triumph Tiger Cub
By way of a taster, for the test day why not check out this posting from Trial magazine

If you want to keep up with Andy’s wonderul Tiger Cub and how it's progressing then you can do so HERE.

Right, time for an early night before tomorrow’s March Hare Trial.

Monday, 27 January 2014

26 Jan 14, The TALMAG Trophy Trial at Hungry Hill

As predicted, the weather for the first big trial of the year, The TALMAG Trophy, was atrocious. Persistent rain in the preceding week, coupled with incessant and often very heavy rain on the day, made for some particularly difficult going on the loose, sandy soil of the famous Hungry Hill venue.  Despite the less than favourable conditions a bumper entry of 169 riders turned out on all manner of four-stroke machinery including a fair few who had made the long journey from the continent.  Penny and I were on the road early and the pits were already jam packed by the time we got there.  I wasted no time in getting NT410 down to scrutineering and after having the bike checked over I went and signed on which, as always, was a piece of cake.  Although, Sammy Miller nearly had my eye out on two occasions with that bloody umbrella of his!
Me, Dave, Teflon & Pete (162) at the start

The course comprised fifteen sections to be ridden over two laps with a special “speed” test to be ridden on lap one between section fourteen and fifteen.  Riders began in pairs from 0931 and being number 100 I had to wait just under an hour to start so Penny flashed up the stove and we had a cup of tea in the back of the van to wash breakfast down.  I re-rendezvoused with factory at the start and despite getting to the line bang on time we had to wait what seemed like an age to get going and I was pretty much soaked by the time I got away.
The Factory get started. Pete Collins, Dave Arkell
and The Teflon Don

Sub 1 eased you in and this flowing section plotted up and down a hummock was already quite cut up and greasy when I got there.  A healthy crowd was enjoying the spectacle and it’s always a pleasure to ride to knowledgeable spectators who appreciate the bikes.  I went first and was pleased with a clean as were Teflon (Matchless G3LC 410) and Pete Collins (Ariel HT5) however, Dave (Ariel HT5) gassed the short stroke Ariel up a bit too much on the final rise and having found some grip the bike climbed on him and he incurred a maximum.  Undeterred, we headed for Sub 2 which was a little changed this year due to the weather however, it was tricky especially the exit climb which forced you towards a deep, central gully that had little real grip but I managed to keep the bike going in second gear and went clean on both laps. 

I was pleased to see that the organisers decided to omit the root laden, greasy bank that normally makes up Sub 3 to 4 and sensibly moved us along the venue to a deep sandy gorge.  Despite a jumble of wet roots for an exit it rode well on both occasions.  Sub 4, which comprised nasty off-camber turns, greasy roots coupled with that infernal sandy soil that makes traction so difficult was really tricky.  I recalled my lesson with Steve Saunders and was pleased to have cleaned it first time around however, after the chairs had been around it was impossible and I paddled through for three on the last lap.  The sinuous Sub 5 culminated in a really loose sandy climb but I gassed NT410 up it on both occasions for cleans.

Easy does it on a slippery descent
Sub 6 was nearly impossible and only a handful of people cleaned it throughout the day.  A very loose, ninety degree turn up a similarly sandy bank was a real tester but using second gear again I managed to go through for a two and three respectively. However, Teflon was rock solid and cleaned it like a main road on the first lap to applause from the factory.  Next up, we headed to the eponymous hill for five sections this year.

Lining up NT410 for the gullied climb

Sub 7 rose from the nadir to a root laden summit via sand and mud however, it rode really well on both occasions but Dave, Teflon and Pete did, understandably, incur some penalties as fatigue and cold set in on the bleak hill.  Sub 8 was another long blast up a spectator lined hill and I duly obliged by hitting third gear and gunning NT410 at full throttle.  Whilst we all sailed up it first time the chairs had once again made for some tricky going and I had to take a dab on the last lap while others spun to a halt.  The “hill” itself was very tricky but I was flat out in third on the last lap and pleasingly cleaned it to some applause (see the video; I’m the first rider through).

Thanks to LuckyRich01 for this video clip
Leaving the hill behind we headed for Sub 12 where, whilst waiting in the queue for my turn, it was an absolute pleasure to hear John Pym’s Triumph on full song up the initial steep bank!  The Sub itself was quite tricky, with lots of off camber mud and roots to deal with so I used second gear once again and fairly blasted through it foregoing my normal slow-and-steady style.  Sub 13 had a nasty turn in it followed by an extremely steep climb that was devoid of traction and I was livid to have taken a couple of completely unnecessary dabs on the first lap however, I ensured I got it right on the last lap for a well deserved clean.  This year’s special test was a speed event around the sand dunes and I was glad I heeded the observer’s advice to have a look first.  I never normally thrash my bike on these sections but having lost out on a class win in 2012 due to “taking it easy” I resolved to be a bit more competitive this year.  I’m happy to report it certainly paid off as I beat the second place man by a whopping four seconds!  Of the factory riders Pete Collins is the most competitive and always gives this big Ariel a damn good thrashing but this year he ground to a halt for what must surely be his worst time ever.   
Hanging off NT410 getting ready for a steep
drop off in Sub 4

The final sub, plotted on ground overlooking the pits, had a nasty cambered turn in the middle but I rode it aggressively to record a clean on both laps not, as in the results, for a three! But I guess the hardy observer would’ve been completely frozen by that time so I’ll forgive him.

TALMAG 2014 was a good day out for the factory; I was very pleased to have won Class D especially as I am recovering from a broken leg (see previous posts!) and I’m so glad I finally got some speed on the special test (which offset the errant three mark penalty).  Teflon came in fifth with Dave Arkell fifteenth in the Clubman class with Pete Collins gaining sixth place in the Over-65 class.  Master Chef had to leg it Zurich so only did one lap but fair play to him and Jon Cull for contesting what was a very testing expert route.  Somerset’s John Pym rode superbly for his fourth place in the Over-65 class. 
Getting ready to gas NT410 up on a climb
The weather and difficult going got to a lot of riders and a quick scan of the results indicates that over 42% of riders retired early.  The terrain is notoriously difficult to get any grip from and I found myself using second and third gear on the majority of sections.  It was pleasing to see the organisers had borne the weather in mind and some blatantly over-used sections and what would’ve been a dangerous root laden bank, were omitted.

Fighting for some grip on an off-camber
root-laden turn typical of the venue
Thanks to The TALMAG MCC for their outstanding efforts in putting this huge trial together and to the tenacious observers who braved cold, wet conditions all day to mark our cards; a truly Herculean effort so Thank You one and all!

I’m going to rest my leg again so won’t be contesting the Zona1 MCC trial at Birdlip this weekend and may have a few weeks off to recover fully for the next big trial which is Golden Valley Classic’s March Hare Trial in March.